Do Not Murder

The next commandment in our series seems a fairly straightforward one – do not murder. You can find it here in Exodus 20.

“You are not to commit murder.

Exodus 20:13 (ISV)

With a command like this, there may not seem all that much to say about it. Do not go around murdering people. Simple.

I am guessing that most people reading this have never broken this command, and are not likely to do so. But as we have seen with some of the other commandments, there is more here than meets the eye.

To murder

Murder is a very specific word. We may know this commandment from other Bible translations as “Thou shalt not kill,” but “kill” does not quite align with what it says. To kill is a much broader definition than to murder. You might be responsible, for example, for killing someone in an accident, but that is not murder. Neither are good of course, but they are distinct.

It may seem like I am splitting hairs here, but such distinctions are important. For instance, in times of war, is it a breach of this commandment to fight and kill the enemy? Soldiers at war are not committing murder as we might understand it in everyday life. The people of Israel, who these commands were given to, battled many enemies and killed them in war.

I am not trying to persuade you to become a pacifist, or to give soldiers a free pass to kill indiscriminately. My point is just to make you think that this simple commandment is more than meets the eye.

As Jesus often did, He challenges us to think more deeply about these words.

“You have heard that it was told those who lived long ago, ‘You are not to commit murder,’ and, ‘Whoever murders will be subject to punishment.’ 22 But I say to you, anyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be subject to punishment. And whoever says to his brother ‘Raka!’ will be subject to the Council. And whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hell fire.

Matthew 5:21-22 (ISV)

Jesus takes this relatively straightforward command, and turns it inward. Very few of us are guilty of murder, and yet none of us are innocent of becoming angry at our brother, neighbour or friend. At first glance, we can dismiss the commandment as having nothing to do with us, and yet Jesus points out that the physical action of killing someone is no different than the internal sin of hating them.

The murder itself is an outward sign of hatred within. While we may have the strength or wits to control our physical actions, we look just as guilty on the inside.

Anger is one of the strongest emotions. I picture it like you see in the movies; a gas explosion in a mine or similar, with fire flooding a narrow tunnel and bursting forth into the air. We feel it start deep inside us but it erupts out of us in word or deed. We may be able to control it to a point, or bury it deep down, but it will come out in one way or another.

This commandment, like so many of the others, cannot be fulfilled by us just because we want or decide to. I might choose not to murder someone, but it is not so easy to just decide not to be angry or to stop hating someone who has deeply wounded me.

For many hearing Jesus’ words for the first time, they reacted in disbelief, “We can’t possibly do that!” And you might be feeling the same. You were fine with not murdering, but now, being asked not to withhold anger or hatred, that’s too much!

That’s the point though. It is too much. The Law was not given to be fulfilled, but to show us how far short we fall. The teachers of the Law, the religious people of the day, thought they were good because they kept the Law. Had they listened to Christ, they would have seen that they were hypocrites who broke the Law time after time.

The truth is we need Jesus. He lived a perfect life and fulfilled every aspect of the Law for us. If we allow Him to be our substitute, then we take up a position of righteousness given to us through Him.

The Law was given to show us we need a Saviour! And that Saviour’s Name is Jesus Christ.

Are you a murderer reading this? Are you hiding anger in your heart towards someone? Both things break this commandment.

But good news! You can be forgiven and set free right now by placing your life in Christ’s hands. Ask Jesus to be your Lord and Saviour, and ask the Father to forgive you – not because of your perfect performance, but because of Christ’s!

If you are guilty of anger or hatred towards someone, then can you make a step towards resolution today? Can you call them? Write to them? Even just pray for them? It may be a big step but you can take it with God’s help. Anger and hatred in our hearts eat us from the inside out, and do no harm to the one we hate. Do yourself a favour, and ask the Father to help you start to let it go today.

The Ten Commandments

Yesterday I wrote about one of the proverbs, and it was ultimately a post about stealing. You can read it here – It’s Not Really Stealing… I referred to one of the Ten Commandments which clearly tells us we should not steal. It got me thinking about the Commandments as a whole and so perhaps this will turn into a miniseries!

When I was young, I remember discussing the Ten Commandments at school. I imagine most children today are not taught or shown such things. That’s certainly true in the UK. We take the Bible out of schools, don’t teach children God’s ways and then wonder why we struggle with morality in society!

Some may think that the Bible is not relevant today. Even more so, we may think the Ten Commandments have nothing to do with modern life. Yet I hope what I said yesterday about stealing reminded us all how relevant these things are.

Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments into two main categories. we could put it simply like this: love God, and love people.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

This is a wonderful summary. Our whole lives as Christians should be focused on loving our Heavenly Father and on loving the people in our lives. That is no easy or small task!

So what exactly are the Ten Commandments? Many of us might struggle to name all ten! Here they are:

God spoke, and these were his words: 2 “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves.

3 “Worship no god but me.

4 “Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. 5 Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the Lord your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation. 6 But I show my love to thousands of generations[a] of those who love me and obey my laws.

7 “Do not use my name for evil purposes, for I, the Lord your God, will punish anyone who misuses my name.

8 “Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. 9 You have six days in which to do your work, 10 but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day no one is to work—neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your country. 11 In six days I, the Lord, made the earth, the sky, the seas, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That is why I, the Lord, blessed the Sabbath and made it holy.

12 “Respect your father and your mother, so that you may live a long time in the land that I am giving you.

13 “Do not commit murder.

14 “Do not commit adultery.

15 “Do not steal.

16 “Do not accuse anyone falsely.

17 “Do not desire another man’s house; do not desire his wife, his slaves, his cattle, his donkeys, or anything else that he owns.”

Exodus 20:1-17 (GNT)

Some may see these as rather old fashioned to our ears. Some will wonder what relevance the Sabbath rest has to us Christians in the 21st Century. Have any of us ever had any issues desiring our neighbour’s animals? Probably not. 

Yet when we dig a little deepr, we start to see that these Commandments reveal certain problems we may have hiding in our hearts. We might describe this “problem” in different ways, but it is essentially the problem of sin. 

We can examine the Commandments in turn and see how they fit in to modern life. I imagine if we all chose to live by them, even for a short time, we would be amazed at the changed state of the world. 

For now though, let’s look at the effect of the Law. Paul goes to some length to describe the purpose of the Law in his letters in the New Testament. I don’t propose to look at those now, but instead point you to an event described in the Gospels involving Jesus. 

The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery, and they made her stand before them all. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 In our Law Moses commanded that such a woman must be stoned to death. Now, what do you say?” 6 They said this to trap Jesus, so that they could accuse him. But he bent over and wrote on the ground with his finger. 7 As they stood there asking him questions, he straightened up and said to them, “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her.” 8 Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. 10 He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she answered.

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”

John 8:3-11 (GNT)

The teachers of the Law brought this woman to Jesus to try to trap Him. If He let her go, then He was breaking the Law – that is, one of the Ten Commandments. If He condemned her, then He showed the crowds He was no different from them. 

Whenever the teachers thought they had Jesus trapped, He always showed them up. This is no different. 

Instead of answering them straightaway, He stoops down and begins to write on the ground. Many have asked, “What did He write?” For me, this is part of the authenticity of John’s Gospel. Were this account fictional, you would never leave out such a detail! 

In our minds, we imagine the ground where Jesus was writing like a sandy beach. He scratched out whatever He wrote for all to see. The ground by the temple, where Jesus was, is actually quite rocky. So, in a sense, we see the finger of God writing in stone… a clear allusion to the Ten Commandments of Moses. 

It is my opinion that Jesus was in fact writing the Ten Commandments. As the teachers began to see and comprehend what He was writing, they began to realise their own guilt and shame. Jesus told them that whoever was without sin should throw the first stone. As they read the words of the Ten Commandments on the ground, they realised they too had broken them and deserved the same punishment as this woman. 

It is noticeable that they left, oldest to youngest, perhaps because the older we get, the more we realise how sinful we are. 

The Ten Commandments teach us our need for a Saviour. We have fallen short in many ways, and sin has corrupted our entire lives. 

Only the saving work of Jesus Christ at the cross can remedy that. Amen.

Loved Much

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Luke 7:47 (ESV)

God has put this verse before me this morning, and it is hard to put into words its impact. I definitely need to study this more, meditate on it and may be able to share some thoughts on it at a later date.

I had another post lined up for today, but felt strongly I should put this verse out there with my initial reactions. I hope it blesses you, and please comment below if it does.

While I was at university, I remember clearly discussing this verse with some Christian friends. Someone asked, “Does that mean those who are worse sinners can love God more than others?”

It seems to imply that doesn’t it?

As I read it this morning, the following thoughts moved through my mind. “I know I am a sinner. I know I could love God more than I do. When I reach heaven, I’ll see the depth of my forgiveness and will love Him fully then…”

These thoughts are true to some degree, but even as I thought them, I knew I had it backwards. My thoughts were an expression of seeing before believing. And that is not faith. Faith believes first, and sees later.

Am I a worse sinner than others? Perhaps, or perhaps not. We do tend to get all too hung up on comparisons to others. We somehow feel better if we can look on someone else and feel we are performing better than they. That’s pride and judgement, and don’t tell me there isn’t a small part of you that thinks that way at times. I confess it to you this day that I am sometimes (even often) guilty of this.

I love God little (that is, less than I should) not because I am not a terrible sinner, but rather because I don’t fully appreciate the depth of my own sinfulness. That is true for all. The more we realise how deep our sin is, the more we realise our need for God’s saving work and the more – certainly – we will love Him.

Mary was the subject of Jesus words above. She loved much because she knew she was forgiven of much. Her love was so astonishing that I cannot wait to meet her in heaven one day.

At the tomb on Resurrection Day, the other women fainted at the sight of the angels, and yet Mary said, “Where is my Lord?” Most people hit the ground in the presence of an angel, yet Mary was so focused on Jesus that not even the glory of an angel would deter her.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

John 20:11-13 (ESV)

I want to love God with all of my heart. If i truly knew how forgiven I am, then my love would abound. I’m guessing the same is true for you too.

While I do not think it healthy to focus on our sin all of the time, I think too few of us really consider how enormous God’s forgiveness is towards us. Examine your life, recognise your sinfulness yes, but lift up your hearts in praise to the One who has cleansed you of all unrighteousness!

Jesus Christ and His sacrifice and resurrection is the solution to all of our sin! Worship Him today and may your love grow as you realise what He has done for you.

The Sinfulness of my Sin

I acknowledged my sin to thee, and my iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

Psalm 32:5 (WEB)

The sinfulness of my sin… captivating title right? And I know what you are thinking – two blog posts in two days? What’s gotten into Andy?!

I’m pleased to report that all is well, and I’m not self-isolating with nothing to do. In fact, I am very conscious of how everyone is feeling right now, and hoping that a few extra blog posts will be well received.

A few weeks ago I spoke on Psalm 32. You can listen to that message here. It is a wonderful Psalm and I only had a short time to discuss it. This post covers one of the things I did not have time to explore.

The totality of the Psalm is about sin and repentance. It points out the depth of our wrongdoing, the wonder outs grace of God and our responsibility to confess and acknowledge our sin.

There is an interesting little phrase in verse 5 which says God forgives the “iniquity of our sin.” We might say the “sinfulness of our sin.”

Some translations of the Bible render this as the “guilt of our sin,” but this doesn’t quite cover it in my view.

If God forgives our sin, then what does it mean for Him to forgive the iniquity of our sin?

It is like saying the “saltiness of salt,” or the “chocolatey-ness of chocolate…” What is the psalmist getting at here?

Often when we say “Sorry,” we are not really sorry for what we did, but rather are sorry we got caught. When we see hardened criminals breaking down in tears in the dock of the courtroom, it is often about the loss of their freedom, money or reputation. Being sorry for the consequences of sin is of course very natural, and a great reason not to do it in the first place. But are we sorry for the sin itself? If we never got caught, are we truly repentant for the thing we did?

The sinfulness of our sin is the badness of our sin. It is to recognise that sin is wrong, not because it has terrible consequences, but because it is wrong in the sight of God.

When we are truly repentant, we are sorry to God for falling short of His perfection. We are saying that the thing we did – the things we all do – are very wrong irrespective of consequence and punishment.

God forgives us not just from the punishment of sin through Jesus’ death at the cross, but for sin’s sinfulness also. God forgives us for the wickedness of our sin, and all of its consequences. That is not to say that we are free from any consequence on Earth of course, just rob a bank to see what I mean. God can forgive a robber, but they’ll still go to jail for it.

The point is that we need to recognise that our sin is wrong. It is wrong in and of itself. The consequences are indeed terrible, if facing them without Christ, but the sinfulness alone is wicked before God.

As you reflect on and confess your own sins, ask yourself if you are sorry for what they are, or for their consequence.

Spend some time this week to reflect on where you have fallen short, and on the One who forgives all of your sins and covers all of your iniquity. Come to Jesus at the cross and surrender your whole life to Him. It will be the best decision you ever made!

Psalm 32

Andy recently spoke at a Holy Communion service at St. John’s Church, Great Clacton. He spoke on Psalm 32, one of thhe Penitential Psalms, and you can see the text of the passage and listen to the sermon audio below.


By David. A contemplative psalm.

Blessed is he whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2
Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh doesn’t impute iniquity,
in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3
When I kept silence, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4
For day and night your hand was heavy on me.
My strength was sapped in the heat of summer. Selah.
5
I acknowledged my sin to you.
I didn’t hide my iniquity.
I said, I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
6
For this, let everyone who is godly pray to you in a time when you may be found.
Surely when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach to him.
7
You are my hiding place.
You will preserve me from trouble.
You will surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.
8
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go.
I will counsel you with my eye on you.
9
Don’t be like the horse, or like the mule, which have no understanding,
who are controlled by bit and bridle, or else they will not come near to you.
10
Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but loving kindness shall surround him who trusts in Yahweh.
11
Be glad in Yahweh, and rejoice, you righteous!
Shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart!

Psalm 32 (WEB)


What Forgiveness Is (Sermon)

Andy just uploaded a talk called “What Forgiveness Is”.

Listen to it here, and find other audio messages on the Audio page.

Pearl of Wisdom #12

Beating yourself up is a symptom of pride.

In the past, when I made a mistake I would tend to beat myself up about it. The length and severity of my “self-beating” would depend on how serious I perceived the mistake to be.

And let’s call it what it is – not a mistake, but a sin. A falling short of God’s standards.

I’d think to myself, “How could I have done such a thing? I’m supposed to be a Christian! I’m better than that, and I shouldn’t be doing such things! I’m so unworthy. I just can’t do anything right!” And so on and so forth.

Read back what I used to say to myself again. How many times did I use the term “I” or something similar to it?

Answer: a lot.

How could I have done such a thing? Well, because I’m only human, I’m not perfect and I’m still on a journey with Jesus. As long as I live and breath, I’ll never be perfect in and of myself, only in Christ.

It is a symptom of pride. Believing we are above sin or simple mistakes indicates that we have a proud heart.

Often we think that beating ourselves up is a humble thing to do – far from it. In fact, it is suggestive that we don’t think Christ’s punishment was enough, and that we somehow need to add to it.

If you sin this week, don’t spend any time beating yourself up. It’s a waste of time. Just accept Christ’s work and forgiveness and move on.

Trusting the Unseen

All the Benefits of Believing (ATBOB) #3

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

Psalm 103:1-3 (ESV)

I’ve included the text from verses one to three here, but our focus today is just on verse three. So far in this Psalm we have thought a little about praise and worship, and also about using our minds and memories. The psalmist – David – begins to list out some of the benefits of believing, and he starts with two of the most amazing ones.

Who forgives all of your sins

From the very moment Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden, God put into action His plan of salvation. So many times in the Old Testament do we see imagery or typology of the future Christ Who would come to die for the sins of the world. Indeed in that very garden, God clothed Adam and Eve with the skins/furs of animals. Blood had to have been shed for those animals to give up theirs skins, and the principle of the shedding of blood to “cover” sins was begun.

David knew as he praised God with these words, that He is a forgiving God. Of all the characteristics of God David could have pointed to, he chose first to highlight His forgiveness. Even in Old Testament times, before Christ came to deal with sin, we see God’s patience with His people lengthened time and time again.

And how many of our sins does God forgive? All of them!

So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:28 (ESV)

God, through His Son, dealt with every single one of our sins now and forever. The idea that God has forgiven all of our sins sometimes makes my head spin. When I think back over my life, I can recall the times when I’ve let God down. Sometimes it was out of ignorance, but if I’m honest, there have also been times when I’ve done or said something which I knew I shouldn’t – but did anyway. I feel unworthy and even now I can barely comprehend that I can walk right up to God as my loving heavenly Father and know that I’ll be welcomed!

It’s almost too good to be true! I just don’t deserve it – and that’s what makes it so good! That’s grace!

I hope you are still with me up to this point, and that you too are humbled and full of praise to God for forgiving you of all of your sins. But the third verse doesn’t end there…

Who heals all of your diseases

This is where it may get more difficult. If I asked a typical church if God had forgiven their sins, I’d get at least 99% of the hands in the room go up. If I then asked if God had also healed all of their diseases, I’m not sure I’d get more than one or two hands if any.

I’ve never met a Christian who didn’t believe the first part of verse three, about being forgiven. But I’ve met many who don’t believe the second part.

Why is that? The same God who forgives our sins, also heals our diseases right? If He forgives all of our sins, then it follows (according to this verse) that He also heals all of our diseases. We cannot separate the two. If we accept the former, then we have to accept the latter also.

The difference is that we cannot see the evidence of forgiveness, and have no option but to trust that God has done it. You can’t see a sin, forgiven or otherwise, so we have to operate out of faith.

When it comes to our bodies, we look and see, and if we still see sickness, then we wrongly conclude that this verse isn’t true. Perhaps we wouldn’t admit that we think it isn’t true, and instead look for other interpretations of the Scripture.

Jesus faced a similar problem with the paralysed man in Mark 2. His faithful friends lowered him down on a mat before Jesus, but instead of healing the man, Jesus told him his “sins were forgiven”. This probably wasn’t what he wanted to hear! It certainly wasn’t what the teachers of the law were expecting. In fact, they thought it was a blasphemous thing to say – who is He to forgive sins! – they thought.

That was Jesus’ point. He essentially proved that He could forgive sins by healing the man. He proved the thing that could not be seen (the forgiveness) by doing the thing that could be seen (the healing).

When we see symptoms in our bodies, it is easy to conclude that we’re still sick. Yet this verse clearly states that God heals all of our diseases. So which is true? We have the same choice that Adam and Eve had. We can choose to believe what God says, or listen to an alternative voice. In this case, our symptoms.

To be honest with you, I have a problem with my eyesight. It is a long-standing issue, and one I have prayed about many times. I have yet to receive my healing. With a sight problem, the symptoms are always before you. And I’ve “trained” myself to believe in the symptom more than in the Word of God. So I am not writing this from the perspective of someone who has it all figured out! I have much to learn myself. And we are all on a journey.

Healing is not a straightforward issue, and there are many reasons why we might not be healed when we ask for it. But we have to start from the premise that this verse is true. God is a healer. Jesus, the perfect representation of God, spent the majority of His ministry healing people. God is the same today, yesterday and forever. If He was a healer in Jesus’s day, He is a healer now.

This post is long already, so I don’t want to spend too much more time on this subject. Perhaps it is a subject for a future series. For now though, if you accept that God forgives all of your sins (something unseen), at least consider that He also heals all of your diseases. Pray over this verse, talk to God about it, and begin to trust the unseen more than the seen.